Cubs-WGN breakup: Wrigley concerts shape CBS Radio deal

Cubs-WGN breakup: Wrigley concerts shape CBS Radio deal
June 6, 2014, 12:30 am
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Where else would a team changing radio stations become a three-day story and get a stadium club news conference?

Anything related to the Cubs can become big news. And the relationship with WGN Radio stretched back almost 90 years.

But this partnership with CBS Radio Chicago and its potential national reach is also a unique deal that includes staging Wrigley Field concerts and promoting the team’s new complex in Arizona.

Even if the timing of Thursday’s announcement seemed curious to insiders, conflicting with what the baseball operations department calls its Super Bowl.

[MORE: Wrigley Watch -- Cubs wait for pitch to Landmarks Commission]

So while the Cubs later drafted Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber with the No. 4 overall pick – and sweeping the New York Mets with a 7-4 victory became an afterthought – president of business operations Crane Kenney first laid out another plan that will focus on music acts, marketing opportunities and more ways to drive revenue.

“We concentrate on our iconic elements,” Kenney said. “We are protective of them. We don’t depart from them easily. And yet we’re not going to be held back either.

“As we innovate and grow – whether it’s inside the ballpark and the changes we’re suggesting there or with our partners – we always have to understand what the opportunities are and whether they make sense for the organization as a whole.”

[RELATED: Cubs draft Indiana catcher Kyle Schwarber with No. 4 overall pick]

Pat Hughes and Ron Coomer will be heard on WBBM-AM 780 next season after WGN Radio opted out of its deal and declined to match the CBS offer. The day before, WGN Radio president Jimmy de Castro went on one of his stations – 87.7 The Game – and said the deal made no economic sense.

“I think it’s a little bit of apples to oranges,” said Rod Zimmerman, a CBS Radio Chicago executive. “We have a lot more assets to offer the clients and customers that buy or sponsor the Cubs, along with our radio stations and digital assets. We have a different agreement and a different partnership than what they had. We expect it to be profitable and a win-win partnership.”

CBS Radio president Dan Mason said this marked his network’s 25th sports-business deal, seventh within Major League Baseball. Mason called it the “intersection of music and sports” and compared it to a similar agreement with the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center.

[ALSO: Cubs leaving WGN after making radio deal with CBS]

“There is a cash component,” Kenney said. “There’s also a joint venture on the music side that is truly a 50/50 partnership between them controlling talent and promotion and us controlling a venue.

“They cover 65 percent of the market across all demos. That’s power we’ve never had to promote both tickets and everything else we do here. This was a multi-layered agreement with all sorts of elements to it, which took our lawyers quite awhile to figure out after we cut the business deal quite awhile ago.”

Kenney also pointed out the Cubs would be returning to WBBM after being on the station from 1929 to 1940.

Zimmerman put it this way after adding the Cubs to a CBS lineup that already includes the Bears (WBBM) and the White Sox (WSCR-AM 670 through 2015): “Exclusive, marquee oceanfront property radio content like this is very hard to find.”